Tangential Science: it's not necessarily science, but it's still funny.

1. Science of Karma 

Can there be science to 'Karma'?   Likely not, since Karma is, by definition, an Eastern religious concept that has been colloquiallized into a philosophical one.    In the East (considered globally since  Hindus, Jains, Sikhs and Buddhists all lay claim to it), Karma is basically cause and effect, which is all very Newtonian, and it is echoed in Western religions with the 'as you sow, so also shall you reap' idea ... except at least in the West you are only screwed over once by what you do and actions have consequences over multiple lifetimes.

Today, for example, I had a good Karma day.    But psychology says I only noticed because we remember when we have extraordinarily good or bad days.

We're sponsoring a local "Ask a scientist" event (Are you a local neuroscientist and not at UC Davis?   Because UC Davis is apparently so trapped in its own bureaucratic morass I hesitate to even give them some press with one parenthetically-encased sentence.  If so, I'd like to talk to you) so I had to go into Sacramento and look at some venues.

When I pulled onto L street I noticed that the most convenient parking lot near my destination was the same one I used for The Science of Fine Wine Event in support of the Discovery Science&Space Museum.   I had parked there, paid my money and when I came back I had a ticket anyway.   Turns out in the small print that there was a 2 hour cap at night.   Well, pardon me for not knowing that while I do my best to make your kids smarter, I thought.   And threw away the parking citation.(1)

So now I am back again because I am meeting Kristina Gorgevich, the mastermind of this whole thing.(2)

I get out of the car and head for the little pay station and a fellow pulling out drives up, rolls down his window and hands me a receipt saying, "Here you go.  I paid for way too long."

You see?  Karma, for those parking lot jacklegs screwing me with fine print.   

I put the ticket inside the car on the dashboard and off to the meeting I went.   When I came back out I was near my car and I saw a lady pulling in.   I put my hand up and told her to stop and she rolled down her window with a look of amusement.   So I opened my car door, took the  paid receipt out of my car and said, "I'm leaving and this is good until 6. "   She smiled and wished me a nice day.

So it goes with Karma over multiple lifetimes.   As sure as I am sitting here, I bet she gave that ticket to someone else.   They tried to jerk $20 out of me and I bet they lost that much this afternoon.

As a P.S., we loved the place for the event.   Now we just need to find a sleep expert.    I'll get someone from Berkeley.   They apparently have a clue.

2.  42,001

UC Davis is on my nerves, as you can guess.  It isn't one thing, it's a persistent annoyance with a local university that feels like it's a pretty big deal but I  have been in science and technology for the last 20 years and never heard of them before I moved here.

When talking about  the origin of Scientific Blogging and how we were able to become so successful with no money spent on marketing despite the fact that some pretty large companies (and one or two small ones) would rather have seen us dead, I have always said, "Value is nonlinear."

I then go on to explain that the first fax machine had no value.  It couldn't communicate with anyone.  But the second one added value to the first and the third to the first two and so on.  You could use email addresses or whatever you want but it's basically the miracle of compounding.    If value is nonlinear, one lonely scientist writing on the Internet has to rely more on luck than content to make a difference.   But if you get 20 good writers, that  nonlinear curve goes way up.   

So is negative value nonlinear?    Brad Penny, a baseball pitcher, left the Los Angeles Dodgers under acrimonious terms (and, if we are being objective, he was useless, so they weren't dumb for turning down a $9.5 million option last year, nor was Boston dumb for getting rid of him this year) so when a reporter asked him about pitching against the Dodgers in front of 42,000 Dodger haters he interrupted and said, "42,001."

Brad Penny.  Philosopher.

The Dodgers are not too worried about what Brad Penny thinks.   They sold short on him for the right reasons.   So it goes with UC Davis.  The UC system has tripled in size since I moved to California 10 years ago, primarily due to Grey Davis, a Democrat, wanting to reward an active electorate who got him into office and then Arnold Schwarzenegger, technically a Republican even though he had more Kennedys at his inauguration than he had conservatives, being unwilling to actually tackle California spending.    Along with worthwhile programs, there is a lot of fat in the UC system, but they are bigger than ever so me being 42,001 won't mean much to anyone over there - still, they'd better hope ridicule is not nonlinear.

3.  Improbable research - and probably Not Safe For Work

Okay, that is my disclaimer on the NSFW thing though, honestly, if you did not know that this was MRI of people having sex, could you tell?     It isn't the silliest thing I have seen using MRI today.    Tetris making your brain bigger is.

4.  How many riffs can you name?
100 riffs, 1 take.   How many do you know?    I  made a scratch as I went along and only got 63.

5.  In the 'why do you think government programs are free?' department

In case you have a 'ha, ha, someone else will pay' mentality about the wave of government spending about to occur, take note of the recent Cash for Clunkers boondoggle, which did nothing for American autoworkers or the environment.

To add insult to the injury that the program costs 10X as much to save carbon emissions as even the worst current program, the rebate turns out to be ... taxable.    Yes, we all paid taxes so people could get a rebate which turns out to be taxable.

6.  If they are serious about curbing global warming ... 

The British supercomputer hailed as the 'future of weather prediction' and extolled for its ability to do more accurate climate change modelling, turns out to be one of the worst polluters in the country, requiring 1.2 megawatts to run, enough energy to power 1,000 homes, and spewing out 12,000 tons of carbon dioxide a year.

What do supercomputers know about irony?   I guess environmentalists in the UK are learning about Karma, though.

Last, I just have to post this 'Octopus Versus A Big Shark thing again.   It's too funny not to watch.


(1) I got one at the AAAS meeting 'communicating science' event too, that time because their pay machines were not accepting dollars and did not take credit cards - though I paid that citation.    In the midst of budget woes in California,  non-functional parking meters seems like a good way to raise money, though they could apparently do with what they have if they fired a lot of useless people at UC Davis.

(2) She is quite the trooper and even stingier with company money than I am, parking 2 blocks away in high heels and 95 degree heat because it only cost $.50 there.